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Meet Kim Baise of Jikits

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Baise.

Kim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When my youngest son was born, I wanted to purchase a baby mobile, but all the ones I found in shops were overstuffed and hideous… giant Dora the Explorer heads!

Undefeated, I went home and decided to make one for him. We had moved four or five times that year from the East coast to the West coast, and the only things I could find unpacked around the apartment were newspapers, cardboard boxes and packing twine. I made him a mobile with five little papier mache houses and hung them from a found branch. I posted a photo of it on my blog, and it went viral on some very popular design sites and magazines.

That first mobile was the catalyst for a new career path. I’d studied drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and installation and received a Masters degree in studio art from New York University but never had any formal papier mache classes. As soon as I started, it felt right. I love that the process is simple and supplies are minimal… anyone can do it! I also love working with my hands to form shapes with recycled paper. It’s relaxing and satisfying.

This year my son turns ten which marks ten years on the papier mache train making custom pieces as well as collaborating with larger companies to have my works stocked in stores dotted around the world. I divide my time between custom work and my own concoctions. I love taking customer requests because some of the customer ideas are so wacky and challenging, but I also continue to explore and create my own pieces, keeping it 50/50.

The pleasure isn’t just in the paper wrangling, collaborations or the prospect of kooky custom orders but also in meeting and connecting with some of the most awesome people from all over the world who truly enjoy and ‘get’ what art’s all about.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The papier-mache road hasn’t been smooth or easy. It’s a lonely road with only a handful of other Cartoneria artists I can connect with. Papier Mache is considered a lower art form, using trash to form beauty. It’s associated with domestic and children’s crafts and has not been given the credit it deserves.

But the tides are changing! New York Times just posted an article last month citing the art of paper mache as ‘the perfect medium for our times.’ It’s been frustrating to have my art rejected from galleries only to find another artist replicate pieces very similar to mine in ceramic form a few years later with major gallery showings.

Although it’s a bumpy road, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. As soon as I think I have it smooth and under control, everything changes. But I like making my own money and having to live with the consequences of my decisions… good or bad. Like every game, the more you play, the better you get!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Jikits – what should we know?
I created Jikits for sanity! I have three kids, and if I’m not doing art, I can’t be happy.

Doing things with my hands eases my mind and provides an outlet for self-expressionism and independence. I love woodblock printing and am a master printer, but I’ve been specializing in papier mache mobile making for the past few years as well. I’m most proud that all of my art is made by hand and each piece is truly unique!

Whenever I’m asked to collaborate with a large company, I make sure that the papier mache pieces are made by hand, not from a mould and hand painted as well.

Another very important factor is that the company I’m working with only works with fair trade since most of the handmade papier mache manufacturers are in India and Haiti. Because there are no other paper mache art mobiles like mine, my work is easily recognized which sets me apart from other artists.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
MOMA artist, Zarina Hashmi taught me woodblock printing and sculpture at UCSC. She showed me that success is taking the risk to continually share and sell art that may be quirky and strange, not afraid of failure and making good and bad decisions.

I’m also a student of viscosity print inventor, Krishna Reddy (who passed away last year). He showed me how to play with color in my own creative inner world.

Textile installation artist Polly Apfelbaum taught me to go bold or go home! Because of these three great mentors, I’ve created a brand over time, and now thousands of people enjoy and collect my art around the world. That’s the reward!

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Image Credit:
Charlie Chipman, Bando, Crate and Barrel

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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